An Interview with Betsy Sigman

Dr. Elizabeth Sigman is an OPIM (Operations and Information Management) professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. She serves as the departmental coordinator and advisor for the OPIM major. Sigman specializes in technology, social media, electronic commerce and information systems.

What is the OPIM field?
The OPIM field includes operations and information management and decision sciences. These are all really hot areas for hiring right now. We have students doing all kinds of jobs coming out of the OPIM major. Some go to work for high-tech companies, some become entrepreneurs, some go to investment banks and do operations there, or do finance with a background in data. We have people that go into data jobs as well as people that go into social media jobs. Right now we have students at Facebook, Google, and other very exciting companies!

What got you interested in the OPIM field?
I’ve always been a data person. My dad used to draw normal curves on napkins when I was a little kid; it was only natural that I would always been interested in data! I’ve always been fascinated by it and I’ve always been fascinated by the way it can be used for better decision-making. I just think the power of data is so important today for making decisions to have the impact that you want. I think it is hugely important that people understand data and understand how to use it to help the business world, as well as the world at large.

What do you think about women in OPIM?
My classes are pretty much evenly split actually! There are a lot of women that come to Georgetown and have an interest in data. I haven’t seen a huge difference in the number of men and women in my classes.

What do you think about women in STEM?
I think the opportunities are so vast out there. I think it is a wonderful field for women to be in right now. There are a lot of jobs out there in this area—huge, well-paying jobs, important jobs, jobs that will help change the world. I think it is a really great time to be a woman in STEM.

What do you attribute to the lack of women in the STEM field?
I think sometimes women aren’t encouraged as much as men to go into the STEM fields, but I think now, more and more women that are global leaders have become interested in STEM. So that is definitely changing! There are a lot more role models for young women out there and I think you will see more and more women seeking out this field.

Compared to when you were growing up, what is different today regarding women in STEM?
I think there is more interest now with women in STEM than when I was growing up. I’ll always be thankful that I took two computer science classes when I was in college. I think that was life-changing in some ways—to know how to code. I did an assembly language, which not many people learn nowadays. But it was really tough and we had to learn about all the registers—but it was formative and it was really helpful to do that. I was a political science major undergrad, but I always wanted to do statistical and quantitative political science. I think that’s what ties my whole career together, which is working with data.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? What connotation does it have in today’s society?
I want women to have the opportunities that they want. I’m a huge family person. I have four kids. I think there are a lot of options open to women: I have worked full-time, part-time, stayed at home. I think women should balance their lives as they see fit. Every woman is going to make different choices and I think it is nice to have those options. Women can help each other with their choices.

Sonya Patel is a junior in the McDonough School of Business.